The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday, the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, is from the first book of the Torah, Genesis. The text is Genesis 2:18-25 and centers around creation, especially the creation of woman. This is the second creation account recorded in Scripture and begins with chapter 2:4. It must be said, although somewhat obvious, this is NOT describing a “different” creation than was laid out in Genesis 1. Rather, we have two distinct patriarchal narratives which detail God’s creation. The second creation account focuses on man and the relationship to God as the center/crown of His creation. The first narrative is a chronological account (day one, day two, etc.). Interesting to note is that the second account is more in keeping with the usual “Hebrew” style of recording things while focusing on relationship. In contrast, the first account appeals more to the “Western” mindset. However, there is no real conflict between the two narratives, only a difference of perspective.
The theme of relationship runs strong in this text. First, the relationship between God and Adam, then the relationship between Adam and the living creatures, and, of course, the relationship between man and woman. The Church has recognized this for centuries; thus, this text is used as a regular reading in marriage ceremonies.
The Church has recognized this for centuries; thus, this text is used as a regular reading in marriage ceremonies.
2:18 הֱיוֹת (he-Yot) root: היה (haw-yaw) “to be” This infinitive form is best translated as “should be” or “to be”
אֶעֱשֶֹהּ־לּוֹ עֵזרֶ כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (e-e-seh lo E-zer ke-neg-Do) This phrase is generally translated as: “I will make a helper fit for him.” But a more complete/full translation would be: “I will make a helper corresponding to him.” The reason for this will become apparent when we deal with verse 23. Ironically, the verb נגד (neh-ghed) standing alone is translated as, “to be in opposition to, to contradict.” However, in this phrase and context it should be understand as one who is opposite of man but at the same time the corresponding part.
2:19 וַיִּצֶר (vai-yi-Tzer) root: יצר (yaw-tsar) “to form; to fashion; to create” The tense allows for the translation of “and He formed” or “and He had formed.”
כּל־חַיַּת (kol-chai-Yat) “all living creatures; every living animal” (see also verse 20)
כּל־עוֹף (kol-of) “all flying creatures; all birds”
לִרְאוֹת (lir-ot) root: ראה (raw-aw) “to see” Infinitive Construct.
נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּח (Ne-fesh chai-Yah) “living thing; living creature”
2:20 לֹא־מָצָא (lo ma-Tza) “not found”
2:21 וַיַּפֵּל (vai-yap-Pel) root: נפל (naw-fal) “to fall” Hiphil with a waw consecutive; “He caused to fall”
תַּרְדֵּמָה (tar-de-Mah) “a deep sleep”
וַיִּישָׁן (vai-yi-Shan) root: ישׁן (yaw-shane) “to be asleep; to fall asleep”
מִצַּלְעֹתָיו (mitz-tzal-o-Tav) from: צֵלָע (tsaylaw) “rib” “from his ribs”
וַיִּסְגֹּר (vai-yis-Gor) root: סגר (saw-gar) “to close; to close up”
2:22 וַיִּבֶן (vai-yi-Ven) root: בנה (baw-naw) Qal: “to build; to make”
2:23 עֶצֶם מֵעֲצָמַי (E-tzem me-a-tza-Mai) “bone from my bones” “bone of my bones”
וּבָשָֹר מִבְּשָֹרִי(u-va-Sar mib-be-sa-Ri) “and flesh of my flesh”
Returning to the discussion which begins in verse 18, the language in verse 23 supports the idea of corresponding parts. The expression “completeness” works well. Man and woman together are complete. Apart, they are incomplete. The two correspond and form “one flesh” when combined in sexual relationships and as helpmates. Therefore, when a man and woman are joined together in a proper relationship there is an intended/created completeness. In verse 24 and with the rest of Scripture, we can also note a foreshadowing of circumcision. Circumcision is the mark of the Covenant in the flesh. It is a naming and sealing covenant. Yet, women are not circumcised. Where is their participation in the all-important Covenant? THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH! The woman shares in the circumcision of her husband because they are one. Together they are complete. For young girls, they are under the circumcision of their father until they are joined in marriage. Then they are of one flesh with their husband—again note verse 24.
2:24 יַעֲזָב (ya-a-zov) root: עזב (aw-zab) Qal: “to leave; to forsake”
וְדָבַק (ve-da-Vak) root: דבק (daw-bak) Qal: “to cling to; to cleave to”
2:25 עֲרוּמִּים (a-rum-Mim) from: עָרוֹם (aw-rome) “naked” Plural: “both naked”
יִתְבּישָׁשׁוּ (yit-bo-Sha-shu) root: בוֹשׁ (boosh) Hithpael: “to be ashamed”
It is important to consider why nakedness and shame are used together in this verse. We remember what follows this verse—the Fall. Suddenly, Adam and Eve realize they are naked, and they are ashamed. It is too simplistic to suggest being naked is a shameful thing after the Fall, although many have suggested this. In Hebrew, sin, shame, and nakedness are all bound together. Adam and Eve realize they have sinned and they desire to hide themselves and their sin from God. To do this they attempt to cover their nakedness/the shame of sin with fig leaves, but sensing this will not be enough, they also hide in the bushes. Man’s attempts at covering (atoning?) for his own sin fail. So, the LORD clothes them with animal skins. This points to two things. First, the sacrificial blood needed to cover/atone for sin. Second, only God can provide this covering. Man’s feeble attempts only widen the gap between him and his Creator.
As one approaches this text with preaching in mind there are several directions you could go. Certainly, there is always man and woman being joined together in proper relationship—marriage. However, one could also focus more on how God makes the two “one flesh” by how He takes woman out of man so that they might be reunited in completeness.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 2:18-25.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 2:18-25.
Lectionary Podcast- Dr. Walter A. Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Genesis 2:18-25.